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June 5th

Regional Semi-Finals in Detroit

June 20th

Finals and Erie Hack Summit in Cleveland
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Please check you Expertise

What Technical Skills do you have?

What Soft Skills do you have?

What programming languages do you know?

What Challenges interest you?

What City would you like to join a team in.

Challenges

The Erie Hack is a data and engineering competition that unites coders, developers, engineers, and water experts to generate enduring solutions to Lake Erie’s biggest challenges. The competition includes $100,000 in prizes for the most creative and effective hacks. Working from the challenge statements derived from ideation sessions with NASA representatives and regional stakeholders, teams are charged with creating innovative digital tools, hardware innovations, and engineering solutions that build “the blue economy”: the emergent economic sector dedicated to the sustainable stewardship of bodies of freshwater around the globe. The Erie Hack provides regional high school students, college students, and professionals the opportunity to combine their own expertise with solid mentoring to create technologies with the potential to invigorate Lake Erie’s environment and economy.

In 2016, Cleveland Water Alliance worked with the Creativity & Innovation Team at NASA Glenn Research Center to develop a unique collaborative idea generation process. These “Ideation Sessions” were designed around the goal of identifying the most pressing challenges facing the Lake Erie Basin. Representatives of more than 150 water and technology organizations participated and contributed their expertise. This process gave birth to seven core Challenge Statements for Erie Hack.

The Challenge Statements are the guiding force of the Erie Hack. Each participating team will choose one or more challenge statements to “hack” for the competition. Each statement addresses a broad area of concern as well as a few possible entry points for a technical solution. Teams’ effectiveness in creating a viable solution will be essential to their success in the competition.

For Erie Hack 2.0, Cleveland Water Alliance is also offering participants the opportunity to partner directly with key mentor organizations to solve “Mini-Challenges.” Mini-Challenges are short, specific water-related issues, related to our broader Challenge Statements, that our organizational partners would like to see addressed with innovative products or solutions in the 2019 challenge.

By partnering with mentors to solve a mini-challenge, your team can build a solution for a specific end user and, depending on the challenge and the quality of your solution, even earn extra prize dollars! If you are considering working on a mini-challenge, it is better to reach out to the dedicated mentor sooner rather than later as some mentors can only work with a few teams. You can find mini-challenges nested under the broader Challenge Statements below. Make sure to check back from time to time as new Mini-Challenges will be added through March.

Check out the Events Page for an overview of key dates and events for details and registration.

Login/Register to join a team and solve a challenge.

Connect Communities to the Value of Water (expand)

The Problem

The sheer abundance of surface freshwater in the Lake Erie Basin means that many of
its communities take this invaluable resource for granted. When water is undervalued, it is often left underprotected, underleveraged, and underappreciated. This means that we not only unknowingly pollute and overuse the Lake, we often fail to realize its potential as both a generator of economic value and an integral piece of our social fabric.

Public awareness of the impact of human choices on Lake Erie’s ecosystems (e.g. burning fossil fuels, dumping pharmaceuticals and other toxics, over-development, draining wetlands and filling flood plains) is low. Some communities have even seen their water become unsafe to drink, a threat to their families’ health rather than a vital community asset.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools, that enable 1) the public to become more aware of the ecological and social consequences of their actions with respect to water 2) industries, policy makers, and citizens to better understand the economic and non-economic value of water 3) communities with unsafe or inaccessible water resources to meet their basic needs and/or 4) other innovations that drive us to improve our awareness, perception and understanding of the value of water.

Teams Participating: BLOKTalk | Blue-Water Smart Tap | City of Toledo Employees | E | Enigma | Eriesponsible Inc | HydroPixels | Ice Blocks | LEOS | Oh-Coin | PHYSX | regen systems | TLC Raingarden | Try Lake Erie | UWinTeam | Water Body Data Visualization | Water is Beautiful | Watershed Data Wranglers |

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

$1,500 - Invasion Biology Game (expand)

The Problem

Invasive species have challenged Great Lakes Ecosystems for decades, but public knowledge of invasion dynamics and steps that can be taken to prevent them are often low.

The Challenge

Develop a video game, mobile application, or other gamified tool based on invasion biology in the Great Lakes system. Take lessons from successful games or dream up a new design. Outcomes should be an increased awareness of Great Lakes health and a good time. Invasive water-weeds are the mentor’s strengths but the topic is flexible.

$1,500 - Road Salt IoT (expand)

The Problem

Road salt is widely used to keep roads safe during winter weather but it frequently runs off into adjacent watersheds, causing chloride pollution of local waters.

The Challenge

Create a distributed sensing and notification unit for chloride. Should visually indicate acute levels at deployment location (as an educational tool) and transmit data for remote tracking. Additional value would be found in a solution that integrates distributed treatment.

$2,500 Citizen Science for Nutrient Policy (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities face an urgent need to understand and reduce the nutrient pollution that drives harmful algae blooms. Many citizen science groups collect data regarding water quality but often that data is only applied in local decision-making.

The Challenge

Develop a tool that leverages citizen science data for policy making around nutrient monitoring and mitigation. This tool could integrate visualizations, additional data streams, mobile applications, or other components.

Reduce or Reuse Plastic Waste (expand)

The Problem

In a relatively short period of time plastic has become the most common form of pollution found in the Great Lakes. Almost 80% of trash found on beach cleanups in the region in recent years has been identified as plastic. This is especially evident along the southern beaches of Lake Erie, where high population and industrial development have contributed to the plastics problem.

The Challenge

Develop a device, method or process that either: (1) help keep plastic pollution off area beaches, (2) better pick up or dispose of plastic debris, or (3) utilize existing plastic debris for other purposes.

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local stormwater infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Water Equity Champion App (expand)

The Problem

From water affordability to environmental justice, Lake Erie communities suffer from a range of equity-based water challenges. However, many community members aren’t aware of these challenges or the local tools they can use to combat them and advocate for change.

The Challenge

Create a mobile tablet application or handheld device that empowers neighborhood-level “Water Equity Champions” to communicate the scope of local water issues, systems, and resources to residents. Further, the output should be able to assist residents in easily registering for relevant water affordability programs and accessing water data.

Cultivate Resilience in Water Infrastructure Systems (expand)

The Problem

With the onset of global climate change, the Great Lakes Region is already experiencing storm events that are more frequent, more intense, and less predictable. These spikes in precipitation often overwhelm our aging stormwater infrastructure and result in erosion, flooding, and combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

CSOs create serious health and aesthetic concerns but are currently unavoidable in many Lake Erie communities because of limited infrastructure capacity. Cities including Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, and Toledo are currently exploring a two-pronged strategy of revitalizing and innovating engineered “Grey” infrastructure solutions and while also developing new “Green” or “Hybrid” infrastructure solutions that can be cleaner, less expensive and deliver a range of co-benefits to surrounding neighborhoods.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools that enable 1) the capacity to forecast CSO events patterns 2) new infrastructure solutions that leverage precipitation for public benefit 3) modification of existing infrastructure systems to minimize the impacts of storm events and/or 4) communities to calculate the financial and/or environmental costs of current challenges and future development in the infrastructure space.

Teams Participating: Alkaline Geo | Blue-Water Smart Tap | City of Toledo 2 | City of Toledo Employees | E | Flow Guard | Ice Blocks | regen systems | Silver ION | Smart Lake Tech | TACSO | TLC Raingarden | Try Lake Erie | Water Body Data Visualization | WeavAir |

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

$1000 – Smart Storm Drainage (expand)

The Problem

There have been multiple anecdotes that flooding has occurred along creeks and drains as a result of downstream obstructions. These are issues like a culvert getting blocked by branches. This seems to be a common failure mode of storm drainage systems and municipalities currently have no way to detect it before it causes property damage.

The Challenge

Create a “Smart” storm drainage system. The core of a smart system would be depth sensors paired with a hydrologic model. This would leverage real-world data integration on a small and low-cost scale to provide actionable intelligence that enables authorities to mitigate property damage. The information gathered through an Erie Hack pilot could also be used to decide the value and ROI of scaling the concept to a widespread application.

$3,000 Seasonal Water Usage Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Water usage patterns can vary quite significantly from season to season. For example, there may be a spike of 300% from one month to another during the transition of spring to summer. However, seasonal variations also look very different across the world, and may not apply at all in some cases. Instead, it may be more fruitful to analyze water usage as a function of temperature, humidity, monthly precipitation, etc

The Challenge

Leverage technical tools to explain or quantify how weather variables contribute to local water usage patterns. Can water usage be normalized to hide weather effects, so that patterns and anomalies would be more easily identifiable?

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local storm water infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Drive the Creation of Meaningful Data (expand)

The Problem

Our understanding of the value of our freshwater resources and the nature of the threats that they face is only as good as the quantity and quality of our watershed data. There are many effective nonprofits, governmental groups, and citizens who collect and share important Lake

Erie data, but almost all of them agree there can be major improvements in the leveraging of this data for public benefit.

While there are a lot of data out there, relatively little is packaged as useful information. As a result, dedicated researchers collect a wealth of underused data and much of the populace remains unaware of the problems with our water, let alone how to solve them.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools, that enable 1) all citizens to access useful, accurate, and timely data about the safety of their nearby water sources, 2) new and innovative collection techniques to create strategically important data sets, and/or 3) methods to extract new useful information from the noise of massive existing data sets.

Teams Participating: Alkaline Geo | BLOKTalk | Blue Lion Labs | Blue-Water Smart Tap | CazWest | City of Toledo Employees | CleAI | CWRU Submersible | E | Engineers for a Sustainable World | Enigma | Eriesponsible Inc | Ice Blocks | Nemo | PHYSX | regen systems | S.H.S.M. Earth | Smart Lake Tech | Unlocking New Creations | UWinTeam | Water Body Data Visualization | Water is Beautiful | WaterPuris | Watershed Data Wranglers | WeavAir | Windsor | YeahBuoy! |

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

$1,500 - Road Salt IoT (expand)

The Problem

Road salt is widely used to keep roads safe during winter weather but it frequently runs off into adjacent watersheds, causing chloride pollution of local waters.

The Challenge

Create a distributed sensing and notification unit for chloride. Should visually indicate acute levels at deployment location (as an educational tool) and transmit data for remote tracking. Additional value would be found in a solution that integrates distributed treatment.

$1000 – Smart Storm Drainage (expand)

The Problem

There have been multiple anecdotes that flooding has occurred along creeks and drains as a result of downstream obstructions. These are issues like a culvert getting blocked by branches. This seems to be a common failure mode of storm drainage systems and municipalities currently have no way to detect it before it causes property damage.

The Challenge

Create a “Smart” storm drainage system. The core of a smart system would be depth sensors paired with a hydrologic model. This would leverage real-world data integration on a small and low-cost scale to provide actionable intelligence that enables authorities to mitigate property damage. The information gathered through an Erie Hack pilot could also be used to decide the value and ROI of scaling the concept to a widespread application.

$2,500 Citizen Science for Nutrient Policy (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities face an urgent need to understand and reduce the nutrient pollution that drives harmful algae blooms. Many citizen science groups collect data regarding water quality but often that data is only applied in local decision-making.

The Challenge

Develop a tool that leverages citizen science data for policy making around nutrient monitoring and mitigation. This tool could integrate visualizations, additional data streams, mobile applications, or other components.

$3,000 Seasonal Water Usage Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Water usage patterns can vary quite significantly from season to season. For example, there may be a spike of 300% from one month to another during the transition of spring to summer. However, seasonal variations also look very different across the world, and may not apply at all in some cases. Instead, it may be more fruitful to analyze water usage as a function of temperature, humidity, monthly precipitation, etc

The Challenge

Leverage technical tools to explain or quantify how weather variables contribute to local water usage patterns. Can water usage be normalized to hide weather effects, so that patterns and anomalies would be more easily identifiable?

$3000 – Anti-Fouling Solutions Challenge (expand)

The Problem

Minimizing fouling, both biological and sedimentary, in environmental monitoring systems is a complicated problem that often limits the deployment length of field sensors or field instruments.

Current technology offers sensor protection by use of mechanical wiping, copper-laden accessories and/or UV irradiation. The current accessories create a hostile environment for biofouling agents such as barnacles and the like. Tedious sensor deployment preparation involves wrapping sensors/instruments in copper tape and typically only offers one use per deployment. UV irradiation requires external power, which limits deployment site selection due to the power requirements of the system.

The Challenge

Create a gadget, or the like, that prevents fouling on the EXO platform monitoring devices. This gadget should be inexpensive, require minimal power, use no harmful chemicals, and easy for the user to install.

Automated Image Analysis for Robotic Algal Toxin Detection (expand)

The Problem

Near-real-time data on in-water algal toxin concentrations are critical to support management decisions for ensuring the safety of drinking and recreational waters. An autonomous, robotic instrument called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) can generate such information for the algal toxin microcystin; however, the data processing/ dissemination workflow includes inefficient, human-assisted image analysis.

The Challenge

Create a fully automated, image analysis protocol for the reliable and accurate processing of ESP-generated images, with data output used to calculate in-water toxin concentrations. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that build a QA/QC component into the analysis, allowing establishment of tolerance limits for data acceptance/rejection.

Harmful Algae Toxin Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Harmful Algal Blooms are one of the most persistent, high profile challenges Lake Erie has ever faced. Though the presence of Algae is easy to detect with the naked eye, it is very difficult to determine whether it is toxic and, if it is, what kind of toxin it contains.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of rapidly evaluating the toxicity of an algae sample. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that are able to quantify toxin concentrations, identify different types of toxins, and/or be simple to use for non-experts.

Quantifying Ecosystem Restoration (expand)

The Problem

Soil erosion is extremely common in Lake Erie watersheds, especially those with particularly intensive agriculture. These issues are directly linked to a number of water quality problems that threaten human health and impact ecologies and economies.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of evaluating the impacts of investments in ecosystem restoration on soil erosion in watersheds and water bodies. Investments and impacts in the Sandusky Bay region are of particular interest.

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local stormwater infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Enable a More Equitable Water Future (expand)

The Problem

Once wholly defined by their role as industrial and manufacturing hubs, Lake Erie communities have often struggled to adapt to a more automated, diverse, and post-industrial economy.
This struggle has left many cities with high poverty rates, declining populations, and vulnerable communities. While the region is now seeing increased employment and economic vitality, this growth has not been enough to alleviate economic, social, and racial inequalities that deepened over a lengthy period of disinvestment. Further, struggles with political disenfranchisement and scientific literacy often make it even more difficult for these vulnerable communities to advocate effectively on their own behalf.

Just and fair inclusion of all communities in the economic, social, and environmental benefits of our water resources is essential for the future of our region. As people of color and immigrants lead population growth across the region, it is time to harness our diversity and our Great Lake as the synergistic foundation on which we build a more equitable and vibrant future.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital
tools, that enable 1) all people to have access to clean, safe, affordable water regardless of race, class, or identity, 2) the substantive inclusion of vulnerable communities in educational, narrative, and decision making processes regarding water resources, programs, and infrastructure, 3) communities with unsafe or inaccessible water resources to meet their basic needs, and/or 4) other innovations that drive community resilience, empowerment, and engagement with respect to water resources and service.

Teams Participating: Agri-Tech Ohio, LLC | BLOKTalk | City of Toledo Employees | Cleveland Lake Erie Algae Removal (C.L.E.A.R) | E | Enigma | Eriesponsible Inc | Ice Blocks | PHYSX | regen systems | TEAMH20 | TLC Raingarden | Unlocking New Creations | Water Body Data Visualization | WaterPuris | WeavAir |

Water Equity and Digital Equity (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities struggle with a wide range of issues centered around equity and justice. While issues such as Water Equity and Bridging the Digital Divide usually have intersecting impacts in the real world, efforts to mitigate them often remain siloed off from one another.

The Challenge

Create a device, method, or process that enables a more equitable water future while working to close the digital divide. This could look like a device that enables both water access and internet connectivity, a process by which residents can be trained in digital literacy and lead safety, or a method to effect another outcome that has impact at this nexus of water and digital equity.

Water Equity Champion App (expand)

The Problem

From water affordability to environmental justice, Lake Erie communities suffer from a range of equity-based water challenges. However, many community members aren’t aware of these challenges or the local tools they can use to combat them and advocate for change.

The Challenge

Create a mobile tablet application or handheld device that empowers neighborhood-level “Water Equity Champions” to communicate the scope of local water issues, systems, and resources to residents. Further, the output should be able to assist residents in easily registering for relevant water affordability programs and accessing water data.

Manage Aging Water Infrastructure Systems (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie cities are old. Many of them have outdated conveyance and treatment systems for storm, sanitary, and drinking water. Often our water infrastructure was designed for populations very different (in number and distribution) from the current condition. Now, centuries after the founding of our proud cities, we must learn to manage these aging systems.

Monitoring pipe performance and identifying leaks, clogs, and breaks in vast and sometimes incompletely catalogued pipe systems is a challenge. Lead and other contaminants leaching
into drinking water from obsolete pipes and other contaminants entering the system through damaged pipes are critical risks to human health in these older cities. Unfortunately, the location of these risk factors is also often unknown or undocumented.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools that enable 1) comprehensive documentation of lead-based pipes in the drinking water transmission system and/or 2) innovative methods for detecting, mapping, and/or modeling vulnerabilities and pollutants in our water infrastructure as a step toward protecting our most precious resource from waste and future contamination.

Teams Participating: Agri-Tech Ohio, LLC | Blue-Water Smart Tap | CazWest | City of Toledo Employees | E | ERIE-duction | Ice Blocks | Intelligent Chemical Sensors | Silver ION | Smart Lake Tech | TACSO | Unlocking New Creations | WeavAir | Windsor |

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

Mitigate Nutrient Loading and Its Environmental Impacts (expand)

The Problem

Phosphorus and nitrogen are essential elements for the growth of all organisms, but when large quantities are added to Lake Erie from external sources they can pose a serious threat to ecosystem health and integrity. Excessive nutrient loads from urban and agricultural activities often lead to the growth of harmful algal blooms (HABs). These mats of blue-green algae can range from a minor nuisance that temporarily interrupts water-based recreation to a massive toxic bloom that chokes the Western Basin, disrupting drinking water supplies and killing wildlife.

Though municipal and industrial activities (e.g. combined sewer overflows and home sewage treatment systems) contribute to nutrient loading, agricultural activities (e.g. manure and commercial fertilizer runoff) have been identified as the main driver in most cases.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools, that enable 1) the measurement, control and/or capture of phosphorus and nitrogen compounds in watersheds 2) the prevention of excessive agricultural runoff and/or 3) the measurement, mitigation or elimination of the environmental impacts of HABs.

Teams Participating: Agri-Tech Ohio, LLC | BLOKTalk | Blue Lion Labs | CCTRONIC | City of Toledo Employees | Cleveland Lake Erie Algae Removal (C.L.E.A.R) | Creative Fuels | CWRU Submersible | E | Enigma | ERIE-duction | ESSRE RePleNish | Ice Blocks | Intelligent Chemical Sensors | LEOS | Nemo | PHYSX | PlexNet LLC | regen systems | S4 | Smart Lake Tech | Soylent Green | TLC Raingarden | Try Lake Erie | UWin Chem | UWinTeam | Water Body Data Visualization | WaterPuris | Watershed Data Wranglers | WeavAir | YeahBuoy! |

$2,500 Citizen Science for Nutrient Policy (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities face an urgent need to understand and reduce the nutrient pollution that drives harmful algae blooms. Many citizen science groups collect data regarding water quality but often that data is only applied in local decision-making.

The Challenge

Develop a tool that leverages citizen science data for policy making around nutrient monitoring and mitigation. This tool could integrate visualizations, additional data streams, mobile applications, or other components.

$3000 – Anti-Fouling Solutions Challenge (expand)

The Problem

Minimizing fouling, both biological and sedimentary, in environmental monitoring systems is a complicated problem that often limits the deployment length of field sensors or field instruments.

Current technology offers sensor protection by use of mechanical wiping, copper-laden accessories and/or UV irradiation. The current accessories create a hostile environment for biofouling agents such as barnacles and the like. Tedious sensor deployment preparation involves wrapping sensors/instruments in copper tape and typically only offers one use per deployment. UV irradiation requires external power, which limits deployment site selection due to the power requirements of the system.

The Challenge

Create a gadget, or the like, that prevents fouling on the EXO platform monitoring devices. This gadget should be inexpensive, require minimal power, use no harmful chemicals, and easy for the user to install.

Automated Image Analysis for Robotic Algal Toxin Detection (expand)

The Problem

Near-real-time data on in-water algal toxin concentrations are critical to support management decisions for ensuring the safety of drinking and recreational waters. An autonomous, robotic instrument called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) can generate such information for the algal toxin microcystin; however, the data processing/ dissemination workflow includes inefficient, human-assisted image analysis

The Challenge

Create a fully automated, image analysis protocol for the reliable and accurate processing of ESP-generated images, with data output used to calculate in-water toxin concentrations. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that build a QA/QC component into the analysis, allowing establishment of tolerance limits for data acceptance/rejection.

Harmful Algae Toxin Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Harmful Algal Blooms are one of the most persistent, high profile challenges Lake Erie has ever faced. Though the presence of Algae is easy to detect with the naked eye, it is very difficult to determine whether it is toxic and, if it is, what kind of toxin it contains.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of rapidly evaluating the toxicity of an algae sample. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that are able to quantify toxin concentrations, identify different types of toxins, and/or be simple to use for non-experts.

Quantifying Ecosystem Restoration (expand)

The Problem

Soil erosion is extremely common in Lake Erie watersheds, especially those with particularly intensive agriculture. These issues are directly linked to a number of water quality problems that threaten human health and impact ecologies and economies.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of evaluating the impacts of investments in ecosystem restoration on soil erosion in watersheds and water bodies. Investments and impacts in the Sandusky Bay region are of particular interest.

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local stormwater infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Reduce and Remediate Urban Pollution (expand)

The Problem

Major urban centers in the Lake Erie watershed have a deep-rooted history of industrialism and a complex relationship to current polluting activities. Because of this, a wide range of recently produced and historically accumulated pollutants currently impact the Lake Erie Basin.

Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and chromium are widely acknowledged legacy pollutants. Additional pollutants such as PCBs, plastics (including microbeads), pharmaceuticals, microfibers, garbage/debris, microbes, and road salt are also of concern. These substances enter Lake Erie through air and water pathways, harming fish, degrading habitats and impacting human health.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations, or digital tools that enable 1) measurement and tracking of the presence and/or impacts of urban pollution on Lake Erie and its communities, 2) mitigation of continued ecological and social impact by urban pollution within the Lake Erie Basin, and/or 3) remediation of historical damage done by pollution from Lake Erie cities.

Teams Participating: Agri-Tech Ohio, LLC | Alkaline Geo | CazWest | City of Toledo Employees | Cleveland Lake Erie Algae Removal (C.L.E.A.R) | E | Eriesponsible Inc | ESSRE RePleNish | Ice Blocks | regen systems | S4 | Silver ION | TACSO | TLC Raingarden | Try Lake Erie | Tygrus Team | UWinTeam | Water Body Data Visualization | WaterPuris | WeavAir | Windsor |

$1,500 - Road Salt IoT (expand)

The Problem

Road salt is widely used to keep roads safe during winter weather but it frequently runs off into adjacent watersheds, causing chloride pollution of local waters.

The Challenge

Create a distributed sensing and notification unit for chloride. Should visually indicate acute levels at deployment location (as an educational tool) and transmit data for remote tracking. Additional value would be found in a solution that integrates distributed treatment.

Reduce or Reuse Plastic Waste (expand)

The Problem

In a relatively short period of time plastic has become the most common form of pollution found in the Great Lakes. Almost 80% of trash found on beach cleanups in the region in recent years has been identified as plastic. This is especially evident along the southern beaches of Lake Erie, where high population and industrial development have contributed to the plastics problem.

The Challenge

Develop a device, method or process that either: (1) help keep plastic pollution off area beaches, (2) better pick up or dispose of plastic debris, or (3) utilize existing plastic debris for other purposes.

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local storm water infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

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Challenges

The Erie Hack is a data and engineering competition that unites coders, developers, engineers, and water experts to generate enduring solutions to Lake Erie’s biggest challenges. The competition includes $100,000 in prizes for the most creative and effective hacks. Working from the challenge statements derived from ideation sessions with NASA representatives and regional stakeholders, teams are charged with creating innovative digital tools, hardware innovations, and engineering solutions that build “the blue economy”: the emergent economic sector dedicated to the sustainable stewardship of bodies of freshwater around the globe. The Erie Hack provides regional high school students, college students, and professionals the opportunity to combine their own expertise with solid mentoring to create technologies with the potential to invigorate Lake Erie’s environment and economy.

In 2016, Cleveland Water Alliance worked with the Creativity & Innovation Team at NASA Glenn Research Center to develop a unique collaborative idea generation process. These “Ideation Sessions” were designed around the goal of identifying the most pressing challenges facing the Lake Erie Basin. Representatives of more than 150 water and technology organizations participated and contributed their expertise. This process gave birth to seven core Challenge Statements for Erie Hack.

The Challenge Statements are the guiding force of the Erie Hack. Each participating team will choose one or more challenge statements to “hack” for the competition. Each statement addresses a broad area of concern as well as a few possible entry points for a technical solution. Teams’ effectiveness in creating a viable solution will be essential to their success in the competition.

For Erie Hack 2.0, Cleveland Water Alliance is also offering participants the opportunity to partner directly with key mentor organizations to solve “Mini-Challenges.” Mini-Challenges are short, specific water-related issues, related to our broader Challenge Statements, that our organizational partners would like to see addressed with innovative products or solutions in the 2019 challenge.

By partnering with mentors to solve a mini-challenge, your team can build a solution for a specific end user and, depending on the challenge and the quality of your solution, even earn extra prize dollars! If you are considering working on a mini-challenge, it is better to reach out to the dedicated mentor sooner rather than later as some mentors can only work with a few teams. You can find mini-challenges nested under the broader Challenge Statements below. Make sure to check back from time to time as new Mini-Challenges will be added through March.

Check out the Events Page for an overview of key dates and events for details and registration.

Login/Register to join a team and solve a challenge.

Connect Communities to the Value of Water (expand)

The Problem

The sheer abundance of surface freshwater in the Lake Erie Basin means that many of
its communities take this invaluable resource for granted. When water is undervalued, it is often left underprotected, underleveraged, and underappreciated. This means that we not only unknowingly pollute and overuse the Lake, we often fail to realize its potential as both a generator of economic value and an integral piece of our social fabric.

Public awareness of the impact of human choices on Lake Erie’s ecosystems (e.g. burning fossil fuels, dumping pharmaceuticals and other toxics, over-development, draining wetlands and filling flood plains) is low. Some communities have even seen their water become unsafe to drink, a threat to their families’ health rather than a vital community asset.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools, that enable 1) the public to become more aware of the ecological and social consequences of their actions with respect to water 2) industries, policy makers, and citizens to better understand the economic and non-economic value of water 3) communities with unsafe or inaccessible water resources to meet their basic needs and/or 4) other innovations that drive us to improve our awareness, perception and understanding of the value of water.

Related Mini Challenges:

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

Sponsor Organization:
P3GreatLakes, Environmental Consulting & Technology (ECT)

Dedicated Mentors:
Sanjiv Sinha, Ph.D., ssinha@ectinc.com
Patrick Judd, PLA, ASLA, pjudd@ectinc.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$1,500 - Invasion Biology Game (expand)

The Problem

Invasive species have challenged Great Lakes Ecosystems for decades, but public knowledge of invasion dynamics and steps that can be taken to prevent them are often low.

The Challenge

Develop a video game, mobile application, or other gamified tool based on invasion biology in the Great Lakes system. Take lessons from successful games or dream up a new design. Outcomes should be an increased awareness of Great Lakes health and a good time. Invasive water-weeds are the mentor’s strengths but the topic is flexible.

Sponsor Organization:
Cleveland Metroparks

Dedicated Mentor:
Mark Warman, Mjw1@clevelandmetroparks.com, 216-346-2234 (c)

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$1,500 - Road Salt IoT (expand)

The Problem

Road salt is widely used to keep roads safe during winter weather but it frequently runs off into adjacent watersheds, causing chloride pollution of local waters.

The Challenge

Create a distributed sensing and notification unit for chloride. Should visually indicate acute levels at deployment location (as an educational tool) and transmit data for remote tracking. Additional value would be found in a solution that integrates distributed treatment.

Sponsor Organization:
Cleveland Metroparks

Dedicated Mentors:
Jennifer Greiser, jmg2@clevelandmetroparks.com

Claire Weldon, cgw@clevelandmetroparks.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$2,500 Citizen Science for Nutrient Policy (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities face an urgent need to understand and reduce the nutrient pollution that drives harmful algae blooms. Many citizen science groups collect data regarding water quality but often that data is only applied in local decision-making.

The Challenge

Develop a tool that leverages citizen science data for policy making around nutrient monitoring and mitigation. This tool could integrate visualizations, additional data streams, mobile applications, or other components.

Sponsor Organization
Cleveland Water Alliance

Dedicated Mentor
Bryan Stubbs, bstubbs@clewa.org

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Reduce or Reuse Plastic Waste (expand)

The Problem

In a relatively short period of time plastic has become the most common form of pollution found in the Great Lakes. Almost 80% of trash found on beach cleanups in the region in recent years has been identified as plastic. This is especially evident along the southern beaches of Lake Erie, where high population and industrial development have contributed to the plastics problem.

The Challenge

Develop a device, method or process that either: (1) help keep plastic pollution off area beaches, (2) better pick up or dispose of plastic debris, or (3) utilize existing plastic debris for other purposes.

Sponsor Organization
Ohio State University/Ohio Sea Grant

Dedicated Mentor
Scott Hardy, hardy.116@osu.edu

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local stormwater infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Sponsor Organization:
Erie County, NY

Dedicated Mentors:
Lisa Matthies-Wiza, Director of GIS
Lisa.Matthies-Wiza@erie.gov

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Water Equity Champion App (expand)

The Problem

From water affordability to environmental justice, Lake Erie communities suffer from a range of equity-based water challenges. However, many community members aren’t aware of these challenges or the local tools they can use to combat them and advocate for change.

The Challenge

Create a mobile tablet application or handheld device that empowers neighborhood-level “Water Equity Champions” to communicate the scope of local water issues, systems, and resources to residents. Further, the output should be able to assist residents in easily registering for relevant water affordability programs and accessing water data.

Sponsor Organization:
Cleveland Water Alliance
Cleveland Water
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Dedicated Mentors:
Max Herzog, Program Manager
mherzog@clewa.org

Rahul Mitra, Director of Resilient Institutions and Sustainable Environments Lab, Wayne State University
rahul.mitra@wayne.edu

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Cultivate Resilience in Water Infrastructure Systems (expand)

The Problem

With the onset of global climate change, the Great Lakes Region is already experiencing storm events that are more frequent, more intense, and less predictable. These spikes in precipitation often overwhelm our aging stormwater infrastructure and result in erosion, flooding, and combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

CSOs create serious health and aesthetic concerns but are currently unavoidable in many Lake Erie communities because of limited infrastructure capacity. Cities including Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, and Toledo are currently exploring a two-pronged strategy of revitalizing and innovating engineered “Grey” infrastructure solutions and while also developing new “Green” or “Hybrid” infrastructure solutions that can be cleaner, less expensive and deliver a range of co-benefits to surrounding neighborhoods.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools that enable 1) the capacity to forecast CSO events patterns 2) new infrastructure solutions that leverage precipitation for public benefit 3) modification of existing infrastructure systems to minimize the impacts of storm events and/or 4) communities to calculate the financial and/or environmental costs of current challenges and future development in the infrastructure space.

Related Mini Challenges:

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

Sponsor Organization:
P3GreatLakes, Environmental Consulting & Technology (ECT)

Dedicated Mentors:
Sanjiv Sinha, Ph.D., ssinha@ectinc.com
Patrick Judd, PLA, ASLA, pjudd@ectinc.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$1000 – Smart Storm Drainage (expand)

The Problem

There have been multiple anecdotes that flooding has occurred along creeks and drains as a result of downstream obstructions. These are issues like a culvert getting blocked by branches. This seems to be a common failure mode of storm drainage systems and municipalities currently have no way to detect it before it causes property damage.

The Challenge

Create a “Smart” storm drainage system. The core of a smart system would be depth sensors paired with a hydrologic model. This would leverage real-world data integration on a small and low-cost scale to provide actionable intelligence that enables authorities to mitigate property damage. The information gathered through an Erie Hack pilot could also be used to decide the value and ROI of scaling the concept to a widespread application.

Sponsor Organization:
OHM Advisors

Dedicated Mentors:
Nathan Zgnilec, Environmental Engineer, Nathan.Zgnilec@ohm-advisors.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$3,000 Seasonal Water Usage Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Water usage patterns can vary quite significantly from season to season. For example, there may be a spike of 300% from one month to another during the transition of spring to summer. However, seasonal variations also look very different across the world, and may not apply at all in some cases. Instead, it may be more fruitful to analyze water usage as a function of temperature, humidity, monthly precipitation, etc

The Challenge

Leverage technical tools to explain or quantify how weather variables contribute to local water usage patterns. Can water usage be normalized to hide weather effects, so that patterns and anomalies would be more easily identifiable?

Sponsor Organization:
Valor Water

Dedicated Mentors:
Bahman Roostaei, Data Scientist
broostaei@valorwater.com

Victor Miao, Software Engineer,
vmiao@valorwater.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local storm water infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Sponsor Organization:
Erie County, NY

Dedicated Mentors:
Lisa Matthies-Wiza, Director of GIS
Lisa.Matthies-Wiza@erie.gov

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Drive the Creation of Meaningful Data (expand)

The Problem

Our understanding of the value of our freshwater resources and the nature of the threats that they face is only as good as the quantity and quality of our watershed data. There are many effective nonprofits, governmental groups, and citizens who collect and share important Lake

Erie data, but almost all of them agree there can be major improvements in the leveraging of this data for public benefit.

While there are a lot of data out there, relatively little is packaged as useful information. As a result, dedicated researchers collect a wealth of underused data and much of the populace remains unaware of the problems with our water, let alone how to solve them.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools, that enable 1) all citizens to access useful, accurate, and timely data about the safety of their nearby water sources, 2) new and innovative collection techniques to create strategically important data sets, and/or 3) methods to extract new useful information from the noise of massive existing data sets.

Related Mini Challenges:

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

Sponsor Organization:
P3GreatLakes, Environmental Consulting & Technology (ECT)

Dedicated Mentors:
Sanjiv Sinha, Ph.D., ssinha@ectinc.com
Patrick Judd, PLA, ASLA, pjudd@ectinc.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$1,500 - Road Salt IoT (expand)

The Problem

Road salt is widely used to keep roads safe during winter weather but it frequently runs off into adjacent watersheds, causing chloride pollution of local waters.

The Challenge

Create a distributed sensing and notification unit for chloride. Should visually indicate acute levels at deployment location (as an educational tool) and transmit data for remote tracking. Additional value would be found in a solution that integrates distributed treatment.

Sponsor Organization:
Cleveland Metroparks

Dedicated Mentors:
Jennifer Greiser, jmg2@clevelandmetroparks.com

Claire Weldon, cgw@clevelandmetroparks.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$1000 – Smart Storm Drainage (expand)

The Problem

There have been multiple anecdotes that flooding has occurred along creeks and drains as a result of downstream obstructions. These are issues like a culvert getting blocked by branches. This seems to be a common failure mode of storm drainage systems and municipalities currently have no way to detect it before it causes property damage.

The Challenge

Create a “Smart” storm drainage system. The core of a smart system would be depth sensors paired with a hydrologic model. This would leverage real-world data integration on a small and low-cost scale to provide actionable intelligence that enables authorities to mitigate property damage. The information gathered through an Erie Hack pilot could also be used to decide the value and ROI of scaling the concept to a widespread application.

Sponsor Organization:
OHM Advisors

Dedicated Mentors:
Nathan Zgnilec, Environmental Engineer, Nathan.Zgnilec@ohm-advisors.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$2,500 Citizen Science for Nutrient Policy (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities face an urgent need to understand and reduce the nutrient pollution that drives harmful algae blooms. Many citizen science groups collect data regarding water quality but often that data is only applied in local decision-making.

The Challenge

Develop a tool that leverages citizen science data for policy making around nutrient monitoring and mitigation. This tool could integrate visualizations, additional data streams, mobile applications, or other components.

Sponsor Organization
Cleveland Water Alliance

Dedicated Mentor
Bryan Stubbs, bstubbs@clewa.org

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$3,000 Seasonal Water Usage Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Water usage patterns can vary quite significantly from season to season. For example, there may be a spike of 300% from one month to another during the transition of spring to summer. However, seasonal variations also look very different across the world, and may not apply at all in some cases. Instead, it may be more fruitful to analyze water usage as a function of temperature, humidity, monthly precipitation, etc

The Challenge

Leverage technical tools to explain or quantify how weather variables contribute to local water usage patterns. Can water usage be normalized to hide weather effects, so that patterns and anomalies would be more easily identifiable?

Sponsor Organization:
Valor Water

Dedicated Mentors:
Bahman Roostaei, Data Scientist
broostaei@valorwater.com

Victor Miao, Software Engineer,
vmiao@valorwater.com

Mentorship Capacity:

Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$3000 – Anti-Fouling Solutions Challenge (expand)

The Problem

Minimizing fouling, both biological and sedimentary, in environmental monitoring systems is a complicated problem that often limits the deployment length of field sensors or field instruments.

Current technology offers sensor protection by use of mechanical wiping, copper-laden accessories and/or UV irradiation. The current accessories create a hostile environment for biofouling agents such as barnacles and the like. Tedious sensor deployment preparation involves wrapping sensors/instruments in copper tape and typically only offers one use per deployment. UV irradiation requires external power, which limits deployment site selection due to the power requirements of the system.

The Challenge

Create a gadget, or the like, that prevents fouling on the EXO platform monitoring devices. This gadget should be inexpensive, require minimal power, use no harmful chemicals, and easy for the user to install.

Sponsor Organization:
Xylem Inc.

Dedicated Mentors:
Tiffany Schirmer, Engineering Support, Team Lead tiffany.schirmer@xyleminc.com

Mentorship Capacity:
1-2 hours a week for mentoring

Automated Image Analysis for Robotic Algal Toxin Detection (expand)

The Problem

Near-real-time data on in-water algal toxin concentrations are critical to support management decisions for ensuring the safety of drinking and recreational waters. An autonomous, robotic instrument called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) can generate such information for the algal toxin microcystin; however, the data processing/ dissemination workflow includes inefficient, human-assisted image analysis.

The Challenge

Create a fully automated, image analysis protocol for the reliable and accurate processing of ESP-generated images, with data output used to calculate in-water toxin concentrations. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that build a QA/QC component into the analysis, allowing establishment of tolerance limits for data acceptance/rejection.

Sponsor Organization:
NOAA/NOS/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

Dedicated Mentors:
Greg Doucette, Research Oceanographer; greg.doucette@noaa.gov
Tina Mikulski, Biologist VI/ESP Project Manager; tina.mikulski@noaa.gov

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor one team that elect to work on this challenge

Harmful Algae Toxin Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Harmful Algal Blooms are one of the most persistent, high profile challenges Lake Erie has ever faced. Though the presence of Algae is easy to detect with the naked eye, it is very difficult to determine whether it is toxic and, if it is, what kind of toxin it contains.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of rapidly evaluating the toxicity of an algae sample. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that are able to quantify toxin concentrations, identify different types of toxins, and/or be simple to use for non-experts.

Sponsor Organization
Bowling Green State University

Dedicated Mentor
Tim Davis, timdavis@bgsu.edu

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Quantifying Ecosystem Restoration (expand)

The Problem

Soil erosion is extremely common in Lake Erie watersheds, especially those with particularly intensive agriculture. These issues are directly linked to a number of water quality problems that threaten human health and impact ecologies and economies.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of evaluating the impacts of investments in ecosystem restoration on soil erosion in watersheds and water bodies. Investments and impacts in the Sandusky Bay region are of particular interest.

Sponsor Organization
The Nature Conservancy, Bowling Green State University

Dedicated Mentors:
Amy Brennan, abrennan@tnc.org
George Bullerjahn, bullerj@bgsu.edu

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local stormwater infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Sponsor Organization:
Erie County, NY

Dedicated Mentors:
Lisa Matthies-Wiza, Director of GIS
Lisa.Matthies-Wiza@erie.gov

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Enable a More Equitable Water Future (expand)

The Problem

Once wholly defined by their role as industrial and manufacturing hubs, Lake Erie communities have often struggled to adapt to a more automated, diverse, and post-industrial economy.
This struggle has left many cities with high poverty rates, declining populations, and vulnerable communities. While the region is now seeing increased employment and economic vitality, this growth has not been enough to alleviate economic, social, and racial inequalities that deepened over a lengthy period of disinvestment. Further, struggles with political disenfranchisement and scientific literacy often make it even more difficult for these vulnerable communities to advocate effectively on their own behalf.

Just and fair inclusion of all communities in the economic, social, and environmental benefits of our water resources is essential for the future of our region. As people of color and immigrants lead population growth across the region, it is time to harness our diversity and our Great Lake as the synergistic foundation on which we build a more equitable and vibrant future.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital
tools, that enable 1) all people to have access to clean, safe, affordable water regardless of race, class, or identity, 2) the substantive inclusion of vulnerable communities in educational, narrative, and decision making processes regarding water resources, programs, and infrastructure, 3) communities with unsafe or inaccessible water resources to meet their basic needs, and/or 4) other innovations that drive community resilience, empowerment, and engagement with respect to water resources and service.

Related Mini Challenges:

Water Equity and Digital Equity (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities struggle with a wide range of issues centered around equity and justice. While issues such as Water Equity and Bridging the Digital Divide usually have intersecting impacts in the real world, efforts to mitigate them often remain siloed off from one another.

The Challenge

Create a device, method, or process that enables a more equitable water future while working to close the digital divide. This could look like a device that enables both water access and internet connectivity, a process by which residents can be trained in digital literacy and lead safety, or a method to effect another outcome that has impact at this nexus of water and digital equity.

Sponsor Organization:
Cleveland Water Alliance
DigitalC

Dedicated Mentors:
Max Herzog, Program Manager
mherzog@clewa.org

Adam King, Director of Neighborhoods, Equity, and Communications
adam.king@digitalc.org

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Water Equity Champion App (expand)

The Problem

From water affordability to environmental justice, Lake Erie communities suffer from a range of equity-based water challenges. However, many community members aren’t aware of these challenges or the local tools they can use to combat them and advocate for change.

The Challenge

Create a mobile tablet application or handheld device that empowers neighborhood-level “Water Equity Champions” to communicate the scope of local water issues, systems, and resources to residents. Further, the output should be able to assist residents in easily registering for relevant water affordability programs and accessing water data.

Sponsor Organization:
Cleveland Water Alliance
Cleveland Water
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Dedicated Mentors:
Max Herzog, Program Manager
mherzog@clewa.org

Rahul Mitra, Director of Resilient Institutions and Sustainable Environments Lab, Wayne State University
rahul.mitra@wayne.edu

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Manage Aging Water Infrastructure Systems (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie cities are old. Many of them have outdated conveyance and treatment systems for storm, sanitary, and drinking water. Often our water infrastructure was designed for populations very different (in number and distribution) from the current condition. Now, centuries after the founding of our proud cities, we must learn to manage these aging systems.

Monitoring pipe performance and identifying leaks, clogs, and breaks in vast and sometimes incompletely catalogued pipe systems is a challenge. Lead and other contaminants leaching
into drinking water from obsolete pipes and other contaminants entering the system through damaged pipes are critical risks to human health in these older cities. Unfortunately, the location of these risk factors is also often unknown or undocumented.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools that enable 1) comprehensive documentation of lead-based pipes in the drinking water transmission system and/or 2) innovative methods for detecting, mapping, and/or modeling vulnerabilities and pollutants in our water infrastructure as a step toward protecting our most precious resource from waste and future contamination.

Related Mini Challenges:

$1,500 - Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure Apps (expand)

The Problem

As global climate change accelerates, increasingly unpredictable and intense storm events more frequently overwhelm the capacity of conventional stormwater infrastructure and drive infrastructure degradation. One method of addressing this issue is with “Green” infrastructure.

The Challenge

Create a mobile application related to green solutions that mitigate the impact of changing climate on urban stormwater infrastructure. The tool would provide means to incorporate recent precipitation data into green stormwater infrastructure design projects, compute the benefits/costs of green stormwater infrastructure and/or provide rapid access to relevant data sets and models that help with the siting of green stormwater infrastructure etc.

Sponsor Organization:
P3GreatLakes, Environmental Consulting & Technology (ECT)

Dedicated Mentors:
Sanjiv Sinha, Ph.D., ssinha@ectinc.com
Patrick Judd, PLA, ASLA, pjudd@ectinc.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Mitigate Nutrient Loading and Its Environmental Impacts (expand)

The Problem

Phosphorus and nitrogen are essential elements for the growth of all organisms, but when large quantities are added to Lake Erie from external sources they can pose a serious threat to ecosystem health and integrity. Excessive nutrient loads from urban and agricultural activities often lead to the growth of harmful algal blooms (HABs). These mats of blue-green algae can range from a minor nuisance that temporarily interrupts water-based recreation to a massive toxic bloom that chokes the Western Basin, disrupting drinking water supplies and killing wildlife.

Though municipal and industrial activities (e.g. combined sewer overflows and home sewage treatment systems) contribute to nutrient loading, agricultural activities (e.g. manure and commercial fertilizer runoff) have been identified as the main driver in most cases.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations or digital tools, that enable 1) the measurement, control and/or capture of phosphorus and nitrogen compounds in watersheds 2) the prevention of excessive agricultural runoff and/or 3) the measurement, mitigation or elimination of the environmental impacts of HABs.

Related Mini Challenges:

$2,500 Citizen Science for Nutrient Policy (expand)

The Problem

Lake Erie communities face an urgent need to understand and reduce the nutrient pollution that drives harmful algae blooms. Many citizen science groups collect data regarding water quality but often that data is only applied in local decision-making.

The Challenge

Develop a tool that leverages citizen science data for policy making around nutrient monitoring and mitigation. This tool could integrate visualizations, additional data streams, mobile applications, or other components.

Sponsor Organization
Cleveland Water Alliance

Dedicated Mentor
Bryan Stubbs, bstubbs@clewa.org

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

$3000 – Anti-Fouling Solutions Challenge (expand)

The Problem

Minimizing fouling, both biological and sedimentary, in environmental monitoring systems is a complicated problem that often limits the deployment length of field sensors or field instruments.

Current technology offers sensor protection by use of mechanical wiping, copper-laden accessories and/or UV irradiation. The current accessories create a hostile environment for biofouling agents such as barnacles and the like. Tedious sensor deployment preparation involves wrapping sensors/instruments in copper tape and typically only offers one use per deployment. UV irradiation requires external power, which limits deployment site selection due to the power requirements of the system.

The Challenge

Create a gadget, or the like, that prevents fouling on the EXO platform monitoring devices. This gadget should be inexpensive, require minimal power, use no harmful chemicals, and easy for the user to install.

Sponsor Organization:
Xylem Inc.

Dedicated Mentors:
Tiffany Schirmer, Engineering Support, Team Lead tiffany.schirmer@xyleminc.com

Mentorship Capacity:
1-2 hours a week for mentoring

Automated Image Analysis for Robotic Algal Toxin Detection (expand)

The Problem

Near-real-time data on in-water algal toxin concentrations are critical to support management decisions for ensuring the safety of drinking and recreational waters. An autonomous, robotic instrument called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) can generate such information for the algal toxin microcystin; however, the data processing/ dissemination workflow includes inefficient, human-assisted image analysis

The Challenge

Create a fully automated, image analysis protocol for the reliable and accurate processing of ESP-generated images, with data output used to calculate in-water toxin concentrations. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that build a QA/QC component into the analysis, allowing establishment of tolerance limits for data acceptance/rejection.

Sponsor Organization:
NOAA/NOS/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

Dedicated Mentors:
Greg Doucette, Research Oceanographer; greg.doucette@noaa.gov
Tina Mikulski, Biologist VI/ESP Project Manager; tina.mikulski@noaa.gov

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor one team that elect to work on this challenge

Harmful Algae Toxin Analysis (expand)

The Problem

Harmful Algal Blooms are one of the most persistent, high profile challenges Lake Erie has ever faced. Though the presence of Algae is easy to detect with the naked eye, it is very difficult to determine whether it is toxic and, if it is, what kind of toxin it contains.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of rapidly evaluating the toxicity of an algae sample. Extra consideration will be given to solutions that are able to quantify toxin concentrations, identify different types of toxins, and/or be simple to use for non-experts.

Sponsor Organization
Bowling Green State University

Dedicated Mentor
Tim Davis, timdavis@bgsu/edu

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Quantifying Ecosystem Restoration (expand)

The Problem

Soil erosion is extremely common in Lake Erie watersheds, especially those with particularly intensive agriculture. These issues are directly linked to a number of water quality problems that threaten human health and impact ecologies and economies.

The Challenge

Create a device, system, or method capable of evaluating the impacts of investments in ecosystem restoration on soil erosion in watersheds and water bodies. Investments and impacts in the Sandusky Bay region are of particular interest.

Sponsor Organization
The Nature Conservancy, Bowling Green State University

Dedicated Mentors:
Amy Brennan, abrennan@tnc.org
George Bullerjahn, bullerj@bgsu.edu

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local stormwater infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Sponsor Organization:
Erie County, NY

Dedicated Mentors:
Lisa Matthies-Wiza, Director of GIS
Lisa.Matthies-Wiza@erie.gov

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Reduce and Remediate Urban Pollution (expand)

The Problem

Major urban centers in the Lake Erie watershed have a deep-rooted history of industrialism and a complex relationship to current polluting activities. Because of this, a wide range of recently produced and historically accumulated pollutants currently impact the Lake Erie Basin.

Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and chromium are widely acknowledged legacy pollutants. Additional pollutants such as PCBs, plastics (including microbeads), pharmaceuticals, microfibers, garbage/debris, microbes, and road salt are also of concern. These substances enter Lake Erie through air and water pathways, harming fish, degrading habitats and impacting human health.

The Challenge

Develop practical solutions, such as devices, processes, hardware innovations, or digital tools that enable 1) measurement and tracking of the presence and/or impacts of urban pollution on Lake Erie and its communities, 2) mitigation of continued ecological and social impact by urban pollution within the Lake Erie Basin, and/or 3) remediation of historical damage done by pollution from Lake Erie cities.

Related Mini Challenges:

$1,500 - Road Salt IoT (expand)

The Problem

Road salt is widely used to keep roads safe during winter weather but it frequently runs off into adjacent watersheds, causing chloride pollution of local waters.

The Challenge

Create a distributed sensing and notification unit for chloride. Should visually indicate acute levels at deployment location (as an educational tool) and transmit data for remote tracking. Additional value would be found in a solution that integrates distributed treatment.

Sponsor Organization:
Cleveland Metroparks

Dedicated Mentors:
Jennifer Greiser, jmg2@clevelandmetroparks.com

Claire Weldon, cgw@clevelandmetroparks.com

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Reduce or Reuse Plastic Waste (expand)

The Problem

In a relatively short period of time plastic has become the most common form of pollution found in the Great Lakes. Almost 80% of trash found on beach cleanups in the region in recent years has been identified as plastic. This is especially evident along the southern beaches of Lake Erie, where high population and industrial development have contributed to the plastics problem.

The Challenge

Develop a device, method or process that either: (1) help keep plastic pollution off area beaches, (2) better pick up or dispose of plastic debris, or (3) utilize existing plastic debris for other purposes.

Sponsor Organization
Ohio State University/Ohio Sea Grant

Dedicated Mento
Scott Hardy, hardy116@osu.edu

Mentorship Capacity
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

Stormwater Mapping Tool (expand)

The Problem

Stormwater management is a key area of work for local and regional officials across Lake Erie’s watersheds. However, this work is often unsupported by advanced technologies and misunderstood by residents.

The Challenge

Create a mapping application that visualizes local storm water infrastructure and flow for regulated areas of Erie and Niagara Counties with the goal of delivering management tools to municipal officials and increasing public awareness of human impacts on water quality.

Sponsor Organization:
Erie County, NY

Dedicated Mentors:
Lisa Matthies-Wiza, Director of GIS
Lisa.Matthies-Wiza@erie.gov

Mentorship Capacity:
Able to mentor 2-3 teams that elect to work on this challenge

(c) Cleveland Water Alliance